February 14, 2012
By: Ann-Margaret Carrozza, Esq.
A troubling confluence of political, economic, and demographic trends has resulted in many Baby Boomers putting off plans for retirement and leaving them at a loss to cover their long term care needs.
The decades long assault on the middle class―organized labor in particular, has weakened the healthcare and socio-economic safety nets of our society. Many politicians pound their chests espousing concern for the family. At the same time, failure to ensure a living wage results in both parents working- sometimes more than one job. There is less quality family time than ever. The average worker has less leisure time and less purchasing power than he or she did 40 years ago.
Employers are unabashedly, scaling back retirement pensions, moving from defined benefit to so-called defined contribution plans. At the same time, Federal and state governments are taking an ax to Long Term Care coverage under Medicare and Medicaid. The unavoidable result of these trends is that many retirees are at risk of slipping below the ranks of the middle class.
What can be done to turn this dismal state of affairs around?
The ‘macro’ solution is to recast the public narrative that was hi-jacked from organized labor decades ago. When union households comprised a bigger percentage of the population, real earnings were higher for all families. The fact that this statement is surprising to people, signals that friends of Labor need to do a better job of framing the debate. In the age of sound bite media, ‘Right to Work’ sounds great. Who could be against people having the right to work? The reality, of course means that the scope of collective bargaining gets eviscerated to the point of being meaningless. It also sets the stage for a cynical and perverse social experiment: Who will actually choose to join a union if they stand to receive the same benefits on the sidelines? With fewer people joining, bargaining clout is reduced, results will suffer, and those on the sidelines will conclude that there was, in fact, not much to gain by joining….
In the meantime, on the micro level, unions can up their relevance to members’ day to day lives by providing expanded benefits, such as enhanced access to legal services and top notch information. Gone are the days when a simple will, prepared by a cadre of ‘Jack of all Trades’ attorneys will suffice. Instead, access to competent estate planning and elder law counsel will enable pre-retirees to most effectively leverage the remaining employer and government sponsored benefits to best secure their families’ futures.
These days, a simple will maybe worse than having nothing at all because a false sense of security may lead an individual to do nothing more. A simple will, however, is totally incapable of protecting one’s home in the event of a long term illness. It does nothing to protect assets for a loved one with a developmental disability, substance abuse problem, shaky marriage or precarious finances.
Unions with a funded legal services plan may consider adding an elder law and estate planning component. Those without a funded plan can still contract with competent counsel to provide timely and accurate information to members by way of seminars, articles, website Q&A and a reduced fee schedule.
This is one small example of how unions can support their members and their families and thereby demonstrate their continued relevance.
Ann Margaret Carrozza is a renowned Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney who also served as a New York State Assemblywoman. During her fourteen (14) year tenure in the legislature, she authored dozens of bills designed to protect seniors against consumer fraud and to expand access to quality long term care.
Ann Margaret Carrozza is an executive member of the N.Y.S. Bar Association, Elder Law section, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Queens County Bar Association, and is a member of the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation legal advisory board. She serves as estate planning and elder law counsel to many organizations. She is rated as preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell.
Ann Margaret Carrozza received her Juris Doctor from Hofstra University School of Law where she served on Law Review and was on the Dean’s List.
Her practice focuses on Elder Law, Trusts and Estates, Asset Protection, Estate Administration and Long Term Care Planning. A frequent lecturer, Ann Margaret Carrozza has spoken before numerous professional and civic groups on state policy and legal issues. She has been a keynote speaker for the NYS Bar Association, the keynote speaker for the Surrogates Association and has taught numerous Continuing Legal Education courses focusing on her areas of expertise. In addition, she teaches courses on legal issues at Hunter College, Queensborough Community College, and Queens College. Ann Margaret Carrozza has offices in Bayside, Glen Cove and Port Jefferson. Website address: www.myelderlawattorney.com.